Itzhak Perlman performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony to honor Tree of Life synagogue victims (Photo credit: Primo Artists)
Critic’s notebook: PSO, violinist Itzhak Perlman pay tribute to synagogue victims
By Jeremy Reynolds
November 28, 2018
There’s beauty in simplicity.
Tuesday’s Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra performance marked the one-month anniversary of the shooting at the Tree of Life / Or L’Simcha synagogue that claimed 11 lives. Music director Manfred Honeck led the orchestra as well as the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh and guest soloist Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman at Heinz Hall in a tribute to the lives lost.
“Music is one of the most beautiful products of humanity,” Mr. Perlman said in a phone interview earlier in the day. “When you see something that represents the worst of humanity, you want to confront it with some of the best of humanity. That’s what this evening is about.”
Before the concert began, Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert received a raucous ovation from a packed Heinz Hall, declaring “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. Pittsburgh is our home, and we will never let hate divide us… We are Pittsburgh strong.”
The program was somber, yet uplifting. It began with Arvo Part’s “Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten” — a gentle, sober affair — and continued through Ravel’s “Kaddish” from “Deux Melodies Hebraiques for Clarinet and String Orchestra,” in which principal clarinet Michael Rusinek’s colorful tone contrasted exquisitely with the gossamer string tones. The Largo movement from Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in D minor was a grief-stricken cry in the wilderness before that final, peaceful major cadence. Other works were similarly transcendental.
“My response to the tragedy was plain horror,” Mr. Perlman said. “I just couldn’t believe it. Something as terrible as anti-Semitism, it’s not a thing of the past. It still exists. It’s not over. Hopefully education and coming together like this will bring people closer and encourage our society to become better than this. It has to be better than this.”
Between selections, community members read from texts that mourned, commemorated and celebrated the victims. Readers included Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of Tree of Life, Wasiullah Mohamed of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh and Ari Mahler, a registered nurse at Allegheny General Hospital whose Facebook post about his experience following the tragedy was shared widely.
A group of 11 string players delivered an elegiac arrangement of “Eli, Eli” (”My God, My God”) before a moment of silence. Eleven children carried 11 candles onstage as the names of the fallen were read and commemorated. The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh lent its voices to selections from Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” and Brahms “A German Requiem.”
Toward the end of the evening Mr. Perlman, 73, took to the stage to play Three Pieces from “Schindler’s List” by John Williams. After a lush, warm rendition of “Nimrod” from Elgar’s Variations on an Original Theme, “Enigma,” 11 bell tones for the fallen brought the evening to a reflective close.
“Simplicity is key,” Mr. Perlman said. “If you want to be profound, be simple. When you express ideas, complicated words and phrases do not necessarily give you something deep.”
PBS taped this performance to broadcast it nationally on Dec. 11 at 8pm ET.
For the full article, click here. See below for photos from the evening (Photo credits: Edward DeArmitt and Primo Artists).